Saturday, November 24, 2012

The long awaited 3 month update is here!

Hi all! It's been about 4 months in the Verona now, so I guess really it's a 4 month update. My blog title mentions "Another Verona" well since then, it's been another and another and another Verona. I've lost count but with the exception of maybe 1 house, there are about 8 or 9 consecutive Veronas on my side of the street. They are at least varied in elevations. The last lot on my side of this street is going up and yeah, you guessed it, another Verona. This last one will be a copy of my house and elevation :(  I guess I will need to be careful coming home at night choosing the correct Verona. It's definitely a bit disappointing that Ryan is allowing identical plans and elevations so close to each other, but it is what it is. So back to my Verona! I am finally sitting down to update the blog as I'm home with Jenn who decided to put some spice into Thanksgiving this year by testing the laws of gravity at her relative's house on Thursday. Gravity is confirmed. We enjoyed an ambulance ride to the hospital where they located her missing knee cap and "Popped" that sucker back in place. Sounds easy right? Jenn will disagree.

     So let's see, what can I tell you about the Verona. Here's a few highlights that may help if you are building a Verona or any Ryan house for that matter.

Foundation:  The house was built on a crawl space. I do like how the floors don't get cold and the ease of access under the house.  Only drawback I can tell you is that it's a bit noisier walking on the floor downstairs as opposed to a slab because there's some degree of flex. It's easy to hear someone walking downstairs.

Landscape: Big fail on the grass. Ryan put seed and straw in the backyard at the beginning of August. I don't think 1 blade survived. As you'll see below, I gave up and sodded the yard because the dogs were constantly bringing mud into the house. They should offer a deferred seeding in the fall. It's impossible to grow grass in the Summer, at least here in N.C.

The Floor Plan:   I'm very pleased with the floor plan.  The downstairs bedroom option was a great choice. Not only was it good for company, but also it is now an infirmary for Jenn who is currently challenged by the 16 step climb to the master bedroom. I really love the kitchen and the endless counter space. I also enjoy the Morning Room for the dinette. I'm very pleased with my choice to not get the Fireplace. I can't imagine how I would have set up the Great Room with the fireplace taking up the wall.   I am also enjoying the roomy laundry room upstairs and having the tub in there is handy for my fish tanks. I know everybody says they don't have enough closet space but I really feel that for a 3380 sq. ft. house, the closet space is poor.  I am glad I chose the closet option in the bonus room even though it eats up some of the room.  I converted the mudroom closet and the home office closet to storage. I had several tiers of shelves installed instead of the one linen rack.

Flooring:  If I could do it again, I would take builder grade carpet and pad, no upgrade. I would tear it out day 1 and buy "Good" stuff. The price of the upgrades at Rite-Rug was staggering. The level 1 carpet was pretty disappointing. It feels very thin and cheap. I got the Stainmaster waterproof carpet pad which is good but, wow, I spent a fortune on that upgrade too.  I don't see this carpet holding up long term.  I like the hardwood flooring in the kitchen. Guests usually compliment it.  It does however  have some "snap crackle and pop" noises that Ryan says is "Normal."  This is likely due to being on a crawl I assume.

Electrical:  Overall the outlets worked out well. Only one half-hot ended up in a bad spot behind my office desk. I'm not sure how I missed that when picking the location.  Since closing I added an additional outlet in the powder room for a nightlight.   If I could do it again I probably would have put an outlet in the stair well for a nightlight or the vacuum cleaner. I don't like how the lights over the bathtubs for the hall bathroom and downstairs bathroom come on with the main light.  I wish it had been separated like it is in the master bath. I am going to pursue having a switch added for that. The house uses all CFLs. They definitely save money but they take a while to heat up. I'm entertaining changing them in the kitchen to standard bulbs but I do like the savings. We joke about having to Pre-heat the lights before we eat.

Cable and Network: I'm still bitter about the cost of working with Guardian. As a reminder it was $125 for every jack whether it was phone, cable or network. I would have done more network wiring but spent a fortune on the jacks I chose just to have cable in every room.  Recently I found out how Guardian skimped on the phone wiring. Normally a phone line can support 2 lines. I recently added a second line of service and discovered that Guardian wired the outlet for ONE phone line. They literally did not use the second pair. Would they have charged me another $125 for a 2 phone line jack? I don't know, but I certainly didn't call them.  The cable guy also found one bad wire where they did a bad crimp and was affecting one of the TVs.  Luckily the cable guy fixed it so I didn't have to call Guardian. I've heard many people get at least one bad cable.

Plumbing: Water pressure in the house is okay but not great. The plumber says the reducing valve is already maxed, I need to confirm that. When showering it's pretty noticeable when someone turns on water during a shower.  The tank-less hot water heater works fine but it does concern me. We originally had problems getting consistent hot water on the first week in the house when showering. The plumber came back and removed the water restrictors from the shower heads. Apparently the water heater wasn't sensing enough draw and would intermittently not heat the water. Now it works fine but I find it ironic that in the house that Ryan boasts as Energy Star 3.0 I am forced to use more water when showering in order to make the tank-less water heater happy.   I do see a difference in the gas bill from not having a conventional tank, but I fear those savings will be given right back the day that tank-less needs it's first repair.  I am not an expert on water heaters but I do believe for a 3 bathroom house, Ryan put the very bare minimum size water heater in. It's rated at 1-3 concurrent showers.  One thing I want to clarify is that instant hot water doesn't mean instant hot water from the faucets. You still have to wait for the water to run through the pipes to get the faucet, so you still stand there waiting just like a conventional tank.

HVAC:  I was given very little information about my HVAC system.  While I know a great deal of math goes into calculating the size for an A/C I am confident Ryan skimped here. I have a 3.5 ton unit which is for the entire house. I only had 1 month of high temperatures left when I moved in but the A/C definitely struggles in the bonus room over the garage. They don't put a return in the bonus room, personally I think there should be one. The vendor who did the HVAC system refuses to discuss anything about the system. The vendor responds with "Ryan designed it, not us" to just about everything I've asked. It's almost like they signed a gag order. The heat however, works really well.   The house is also equipped with a Honeywell fresh air circulation system. It regularly pulls in outside air and circulates it. This is nice, but if you turn off your HVAC, you will still hear the system cycle on and off regularly so that the blower can circulate fresh air.  My furnace is located in the hallway. It seemed loud at first, but now I don't notice it anymore.

Warranty Requests: I haven't had any real show stopper issues. Anything I've called in has been addressed very quickly by Ryan or their vendors.

   As far as tweaks to the house, here's some things I've done.  I had a split rail fence installed in the backyard. I also bit the bullet and had the backyard sodded. Also had 4 arborvitaes added on each side to ultimately give some privacy in the morning room. and when sitting on the deck.  A little maple tree was planted too for Myles to do this thing. I've added a dog door next to the sliding door which you'll see in the pictures below.  I added some cabinetry to the upstairs which matches what the house came with. So as usual, completely randomized by the blogger editor, here's some improvements since closing.
Master bath tip-outs from Rev-a-Shelf. 

Morning room side of the yard with the 4 Arborvitaes. The yard is sodded and
a natural area around the perimeter to keep maintenance easy along the fence. It also
attracts the dogs so they hopefully do their business away from the sod. That theory works, sometimes.

Pella Storm Door added. You can see Audrey and Myles ready to bark at passers-by

An attempt to take a panoramic picture of the yard.  The yard is a rectangle in reality. 4 Arborvitaes on the left and right sides. 

I had the garage finished and painted. Also added an 8 ft. fluorescent on the ceiling. Lights up the entire garage quite nicely.

This room is supposed to be the dining room in the Verona. Because the morning room is the eating area, this room is now called the den or front room or sitting room, whatever you choose. It seems to be the most popular room in the house for some reason. This is a 75 gallon aquarium. It has African Cichlids which are still very tiny but it won't be long before the tank is swarming.

Hall entry bench and coat hooks from Hayneedle and Kirkland's respectively.

Another view of the "Front Room". Jenn is on the couch convalescing from her injury. The dogs watching every move I make as usual. 

I'm really liking the porch.  We got the porch furniture a few weeks ago at Garden Ridge. For some reason the ones we pick are never the ones on sale.

Here's the Great Room. Still hoping to score a larger TV during the holiday weekend. Notice nobody is in there. It's so much more comfortable in the small front room...LOL

Another view of the porch furniture.

This is called a Valet Cabinet. I hooked up with the cabinet vendor after closing. This matches the original cabinetry. It's above the toilet in the powder room. The cabinet is perfect for extra supplies and the shelf is a very inviting place to put the iPhone down.

Myles is frustrated because I put the security panel in the dog door. He's dying to get out there and bark at anyone or anything.

Added a matching medicine cabinet to the master bathroom. Seriously I don't understand why this isn't standard or even optional. 

A view outside of the dog door. This dog door features dual flaps and both inner and outer locking security panels  As far as I was able to research this is one of, if not the best pet doors on the market. It's from Hale Pet Doors. It's pricey but given I was cutting a whole in a brand new house I didn't want plastic junk. 

Inside view of the dog door. I was originally thinking I'd have to give up the outlet but the door just fit. This is probably the most critical tweak in the house because the dogs are in and out countless times per day. 

Tip-out added to the kitchen.

Myles on his way out after I removed the panel. 

This is looking into the front room from the Great Room.
This is the study featuring my "Guest" computer workstation.

Upstairs guest room.

46 gallon Goldfish tank in the home office. This room would normally be one of the upstairs bedrooms. 

I liked the valet cabinet so much in the powder room I had to add one to the hall bathroom.

The bonus room. That workstation is for my personal use and paying the many bills accrued by a new house.  Exercise equipment in the Alcove plus cold beverages in the fridge.  
Another view of the powder room with its valet cabinet.

I tore out the wire shelving in the laundry room and replaced with Timberlake cabinets. The color is called nutmeg. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Hanging around!

Hung my first fan today. The pre-wire was perfect. I got this Hunter fan at Home Depot because they still have ones that use medium bases for the bulbs. It comes with 2 CFLs but you can use regular incandescent bulbs too. Most of the Hunter fans at Lowes
use Candelabra base bulbs which do not create nearly as many lumens as the standard bulbs. This is a big deal if the fan is going to be the primary light in the room.

Friday, August 3, 2012

LIfe after Closing! Loving the Verona!

     Well as you know I closed on the Verona on July 27, the very same day my old home closed.  I have to give a plug to my buyer's agent Amy Gamble from Leigh Brown and Associates who worked so hard to make this house happen for me. Actually their whole team worked hard but Amy went head to head with Ryan and helped me through some tough hurdles. The battle to get here far exceeded anything I could have imagined. Was it worth it? YES! I got the house I envisioned some 5 months ago and it's awesome!!!  Would I build again some day? Absolutely.

      So here's what you've missed in the past 2 weeks. A week before closing I brought in a very good home inspector. He found a whole bunch of things and my first thought was, oh no I'm gonna miss my closing date. Within 24 hours of receiving the report most of the items on the inspector's list were addressed and/or corrected by Ryan. The builder reacted very positively to my inspector's findings, I wasn't expecting that. The closing was last Friday morning, and went very fast. I've waited longer on the McDonald's drive-up than it took to sign all the papers. I took a week off from work. Jenn and I spent countless hours hauling all my possessions out of the storage units. By Saturday morning, my 2 PODs were here and it was pretty much pandemonium here. Monday I had my garage door opener installed, cable / internet / phone installed as well as my split rail fence to keep the beasts (Audrey and Myles) in the yard. I also had all the blinds installed as well as verticals on the sliding door. I used Ryan's vendor who did the closets. I had the vendor make a some closet modifications too, you'll see in the below pictures.

    So is it perfect? Of course not!  I'm keeping my "Nit list" for the first 30 day walkthru. I had a few immediate issues that were addressed. Despite being in the house many times during the build, my kitchen floor had a "Hump" in the hardwood near the sink. It was terrible and the floor would knock when you stepped on it. I thought it was going to be some complex issue but today Rite-Rug found the issue. Despite the very well prepped floors, there was a chunk of "Goop" under one of the boards that caused the whole mess. I have a picture of the culprit somewhere in the below pictures. I just don't get how the floor installer missed that. It's like he installed the hardwood over a gumball and called it good. The bulge caused neighboring hardwood boards to stick up too..but it's fixed now.
       I also had no hot water the second night when we got in the shower. Even when it did work, the shower temperature was erratic. You would have to "Micro" adjust it several times as the temperate fluctuated.  Timing for no hot water was terrible after we had just spent hours unloading a truck. The plumber came over Monday and removed the water restrictors from the shower heads. He said Noritz sent an advisory that the restrictors are confusing the water heater. He then told me he was going to reboot the water heater. I said "Did you just say you're going to reboot my water heater? There is a switch next to the heater you turn off for a minute or so to do the reboot. The hot water has been perfect since he removed the restrictors. On the up side, the shower pressure is so strong now. What strikes me as ironic though, is all this stuff about the house being Energy Star 3.0 but I can't conserve water or it will confuse my water heater. Mind you I did not want a tankless water heater. I wanted a traditional tank but Ryan wouldn't do it. Any savings in energy will be gone after one out of warranty repair on the tankless. Also had a minor leak in the drainpipe of the laundry tub in the garage. They fixed that too.
   The rest of my list is assorted nits, mostly cosmetic. You will have them too. I just jot them down as I find them and will address in 30 days.

   The blogs have been a tremendous help. Keep in mind you will have woulda / coulda / shoulda no matter what. There is no such thing as  a "Perfect" house, but we can try to get close!  For example, I remember how much I obsessed over outlets and half-hots etc. Even though I knew exactly how I was setting up my office I completely missed the fact that there was only one outlet near my desk and that outlet also is a half-hot that I don't need.  So I had to run a cord across the room.

Guardian? Don't even get me started on them.  I am starting to think there is a rule that Guardian will screw up one cable per house. My cable guy spent a lot of timing trying to find a signal issue. He found a bad (sloppy) crimp from Guardian and he fixed it. My survey will reflect my dissatisfaction with Guardian for sure.

  So here's another round of randomized pictures. Disclaimer: I'm not done setting up, please pardon our appearance!
Stuart's home office. This is the back left corner bedroom turned into the Bank of America home office. It is hard wired for  Network and telephone.

Another view of the office. That black thing on the right is an old fashioned tube television that weighs somewhere between 2 and 3 thousand pounds. 

This is the bedroom closet in my office. I had the linen rack torn out and the 5 stacker put in it's place. This was also performed by Ryan's vendor who did the original work. It is amazing watching the professional put up these shelves in just a few minutes. I wish I had gotten a picture, but it's this metal template thing, that they put against the wall. It has all the holes aligned,  no measuring, no guessing, no mistakes. These are called tight mesh shelves. 

This is the bedroom opposite the office and it will be a guest bedroom. 

Another view of the upstairs guest bedroom.

The Laundry Room. Love having the sink. My attic storage access is in here too. I've already got some stuff up there. There is tons of room up there. These, btw, are classic 12 year old Washer / Dryers that compliment the tube TV above.

Here's bedroom 4, Jenn's niche. It's her own home office aka The hamster room aka  The Woman Cave.

Well maybe not the prettiest thing one could do with the Alcove but it keeps the bulky exercise equipment from dominating the room.  These are facing the TV wall. I should add that my treadmill is not a coat hanger and is used daily for my weight loss and health regimen.

This is the downstairs front bedroom guest room. Complete with  TV, attached full bathroom and a study. The study is still in progress.

Another view of downstairs guest room.

This is the study opposite the guest bedroom. It features a love-seat and a computer desk which is currently in pieces due to issues from the PODs. Here's a tip for you: Do NOT put your furniture in PODs unless you have to. Much of my furniture is damaged in varying degrees after a couple months in the PODs. 

This is supposed to be the dining room. I never used the dining room in my old house and given this house has a morning room, we decided to turn it into a den. We gave up the living room  to get the front bedroom so this makes up for it. It's quickly becoming the crash zone in the house!

This is another shot of the den. This couch was supposed to go in the bonus room but it does  not fit through the narrow bedroom doors. It worked out nicely in this room. 

I had the shelving guys do this today along with the other custom shelves. They added a linen rack under the stairs so can have a coat closet. I gave up the cloat closet in the mudroom and made it a storage closet. That's my cable modem hanging there but will be on the shelf along with the wifi router. For those that care, despite being under the steps, that wifi signal covers the whole house, no dead spots. I thought I was going to need a repeater. I will say the panel looked good. Other than the bad crimp, it worked as I intended. 

Here's the Great Room. I was so worried about my leather set getting ruined in the PODs yet it's the only stuff that came out virtually unscathed. 

Another shot of the Great Room taken from the Kitchen. The back wall will have a TV at some point after Costco decides to give me one.

And here of course is the Morning Room. That's my beta fish who survived the move well.

Here you can see my prized fridge that I took with me from the old house. I'm attached to it, what can I say.
Another dinette pic.
There they are! The Parker Counter Stools, blatantly copied from Rachel's house. These two are 24" for the lower  Peninsula counter.
2 more Parker stools at the high counter. These are 29". They were all purchased from BTW, that's a  webcam on the counter so I can see my dogs in the crate. There's an app for that! 
Audrey and Myle's crate. 

Here you can see all the blinds that were installed today including the vertical blinds on the sliding door.

The center island, this was a must have on the new house.

Split rail fence installed. Walkthru gate on the left, double gate in the middle for possible landscape  work.

The sod is still alive despite the heat.

See the Rabbit lurking on the right? That's my Rabbit.

There's yet another Verona going up next to me. It has 4 side brick, with just some planks on the front. The seed and straw isn't doing too well with 100 degree weather. Well the straw is doing fine.

I had a rear gate put into access the woods which is still my lot. There are cows behind me, can you see any?  They like to do surprise "Moos" late at night.

Back left corner of my yard.

Didn't bother with a gate here since not much space anyway. 

Big accomplishment, one car in the garage, and I'm very close to having the second one in. A couple days ago there was barely room to even enter the house through the massive piles of stuff in the garage. 

Master Bedroom. You can see my halogen light on the pier unit. They really should offer a basic light package for the bedrooms. 

This chunk of goop caused chaos on my hardwood floor. It created a hump along with gaps  and noises in the wood. They had to rip out of a couple boards today to fix. Did the original installer miss this? I don't see how it's possible to have missed it. 

This is the utility closet between the 2 upstairs bedrooms ( 2 and 3).  Still some leftover space for a vacuum.  
Can you spot Wallace?
Since this too won't be used as a bedroom, Jenn also requested a set of shelves so this was done today also. 
Audrey is saying "Where am I"
Myles and Audrey in the yard.
That's a lotta blinds. The installer spends roughly 1 minute on each one.
This is the mudroom closet that comes with one linen shelf. It was ripped out today and replaced with a 5-stack.